John W. Gardner was an internationally-known thinker and leader who promoted the common good and improved the lives of millions of Americans. He once wrote, "The society which scorns excellence in plumbing because plumbing is a humble activity, and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because philosophy is an exalted activity, will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy. Neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water."
Gardner’s words are as true today as they were when he wrote them in the 1960’s. We all believe in the importance of excellence. But are we striving for excellence as a community? Are we teaching our children excellence? Do we talk about excellence for our families?
Perhaps we don’t strive for excellence because it’s so hard to define. I looked up “excellence” in the dictionary. Webster defines excellence as, “the state, quality, or condition of excelling.” Thanks very much. What does that mean? While we might not have such an easy time defining excellence, Chazal teach us that you know it when you see it.
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(Note: I gave this as a drashah at YIOP a number of years ago.)